Ethical Leadership in a Renaissance World

“When love is gone, there is only Justice; when Justice is gone, there is only Power.”

Lori Anderson

Ethical leadership is essential to personal growth and an individual’s leadership in any good endeavor.

Dr. Layne Longfellow, of Prescott College (Arizona) has many well-developed interests (be amazed by visiting  My first exposure to his thoughts was at the 1990 California League of Cities annual conference where he, in fact, addressed Ethical Leadership.  His ideas have stood the test of time to still be worth recommending today – wherever you may be on your path to a Renaissance life – in Recapitulation, Reformation, Renaissance itself and Onward!

Noting a truth still valid today, Dr. Longfellow stated, “There is no longer a distinction between ‘doing well’ and ‘doing good’ in our society.  Yet, doing well depends upon doing good, doing the right thing!”

He identified traditional (and, for better or worse, still contemporary) sources of power and authority:

Position (No longer implicitly trusted)(“Organization charts are found only in annual reports and the desk of the guy on top!”);


Interpersonal Skills (Behavior)

Trust (The #1 source of ethical power and authority)

He recommended that people in an organization be encouraged to express Wants, Needs, Thoughts and Feelings, to lead to loyalty (perhaps in both directions between leaders and followers).

Dr. Longfellow advised integrating diversity to help manage conflict, and outline four unsuccessful conflict management tactics to illustrate the need for that approach:

1.  Forcing; Using position;

2.  Smoothing: Pretending the problem isn’t there.  “Passive Smoothing: No one discusses what they really feel, leading to suppressed energy and boredom, then onward to depression.”

3.  Withdrawing: Acquiescing in lieu of expressing;

4.  Compromising: The classic lose-lose assumption.

The essential tactic for successful conflict management was expressed as:

5.  Integration of Differences: “There is a sure point at which our diversity converges – we are here for a common reason, all “in it” together.  You can’t float (or sink) 1/2 of a ship!”  Yet, integration of diversity to solve conflict is not easy!

“More than at any other time in our history we face a critical decision: one path leads to only despair and hopelessness; the other to total extinction.  I hope we have the wisdom to choose wisely.” (part of a 1980’s Woody Allen commencement address)

“History is accelerating.”  Vaclav Havel, 1990

“I am standing knee-deep in kerosene and everybody has a match.” Michail Gorbachev in the midst of Perestroika, July 1990.

Our society has a “diversity deficiency” Although having quite a range of interests, and therefore knowledge, is good, most have very few interests and are stuck in traditionalism – the rote practice of old techniques without understanding – to the sacrifice of well-founded traditions which equip one to be able to perform competently within a discipline while moving it, and with it, into the future.  Our schools and major businesses make social policy for other people, including a damaging separation of public and private life.  Those policies usually do not have a vision of the future in them and, as Alan Kay of Xerox famously stated, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Dr. Longfellow advised that we interrogate ourselves by asking, “What are our beliefs about change?” and “What is your model of change?”  He demonstrated that all change causes a grief reaction of loss.  Yet we need to impose the General Law of the Iroquois: “How will our decisions affect the next seven generations.”  Drawing from ecology, he noted that in ecosystems, diversity increases the likelihood of surviving change.

“Freedom from responsibility is the end of freedom.  The privilege of leading demands responsibility,” he stated, “The fruits of affluence weaken the roots of affluence”.  How telling when used as a lens to view the current state of world political, economic and environmental affairs!

Again, facing change – your Renaissance – requires ethical and knowledge-based discipline:

“Recognize our limitations; forgive ourselves for them; Then, slowly, step by step, work gently for change.”

Anthropologist Margaret Meade opined many years ago, “1946+ babies are the first generation in history with NOTHING practical to learn from their grandparents.”  Dr. Longfellow proposed that the area where America was #1 was been social risk and progression.  “We must be gentle with ourselves as we try to be good at it – no one has tried it before!” 

As your Recapitulate your path to the present, identify error to return to a rightful course through Reformation, and move forward on a Renaissance path, think about Dr. Longfellow’s concluding comment on “The Parable of the Tribes”:

“Chaos and savagery are not at our roots.  The system selects those to reach power over generations.  Those who seek power are the most likely to abuse it!”

If one of your Renaissance goals is to seek and obtain power, you’re still stuck in the Dark Ages, perhaps an agent of or accomplice to chaos, savagery and abuse of power! 

Don’t stay there!


About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
This entry was posted in Lead On, Recapitulation, Reformation, Renaissance, Renaissance Rules, Zeitgeist and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.